The Greek brand making sculptural coats out of repurposed handmade blankets
Unsung Weavers makes outerwear out of homeware, and pays tribute to the anonymous craftspeople behind it in the process
High in Greece’s Peloponnese mountains, a rich tradition of craftsmanship has been spinning quietly away for generations. Living autonomously in a region called Arcadia, artisans shear, spin and weave wool from their sheep to create the very best blankets. These are dyed using naturally occurring local herbs and plants, and left to soak on the riverbed for several days, felting naturally into a thick, water-resistant pile. The results serve their families for years to come – ‘sustainable’ fashion at its most elemental.
It’s these characters that young Greek brand Unsung Weavers’ name, and entire ethos, pays tribute to. Architect, engineer and designer Elina Tseliagkou, and designer and photographer Epaminondas Coutsicos, are the duo behind the label, which gathers these textiles from the Mediterranean villages in which they are made, and repurposes them to create a series of tactile, sculptural, raw-hemmed coats. Some are over-dyed in parts, or in their entirety; others are hand-stitched with embroidered details. Naturally, no two are the same.
‘Our grandmothers' generation didn’t buy anything,' Tseliagkou explains. ‘Each family produced fabrics, clothing themselves.' The production processes used to create each one were tied up with the seasons – from the moment for shearing the sheep, to the dry and rainy periods required for weaving, dyeing and felting. As such, each piece is imbued with nature and ritual – influences that are far removed from contemporary fashion. ‘For me, it’s a whole cosmology. It speaks,' says Tseliagkou. ‘The connections they had with the plants around them, the sheep, the water. Each one behaves completely differently.' ‘This is something that will grow,' adds Coutsicos. ‘Not the brand, in making more coats, but the idea. And I think that's very beautiful.'
The patterns used to make each piece are based on utilitarian archetypes of the shepherd’s coat (an oversized A-line shape) and the monk’s coat (a longer, fitted robe) – two roles closely associated with the region’s mythology. Each coat carries with it an echo of the majesty of its original intended purpose – allowing its wearer to tap into the environment from which it originated, if only for a moment. ‘For me, the shepherd and the monk are like the low and the high, the earthly and the spiritual joining,' says Tseliagkou.
This season, Unsung Weavers launches in Dover Street Market, where its characterful reconnection with rural craftsmanship and nature-dependent production will reach a new audience again. As for the charm? ‘It’s about ownership,' Coutsicos adds. ‘Upcycled pieces are pre-owned; somebody made it.' ‘And they never got credit for it,' adds Tseliagkou. Now, in some small way, that looks set to change.
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